On Thursday, February 22, students from more than two dozen colleges demanded their institutions “cancel their contracts with Starbucks in protest against the company’s response to union organizing efforts,” according to TheGuardian (UK).
Students from California to New York - in conjunction with Starbucks Workers United - pointed to the coffee giant’s less-than-worker-friendly tactics in dealing with demands for unionizing. Restaurant Dive lists some of those tactics, which include “workplace surveillance and diluting the electoral pool at unionizing locations, firing workers involved with the union in alleged retaliation, and alleged solicitation of grievances in an effort to stymie union organizing.”
The powerful cede power only when forced to, and it’ll be most interesting to see what effect these and other protests have on Starbucks’ policy. The Guardian reports that . . .
“nearly 400 Starbucks stores around the US have won union elections to join Starbucks Workers United since December 2021...but a first union contract for any store has yet to be reached.”
As any giant corporation would, Starbucks claimed there’s nothing to see here, folks, just move along now...Several sources quote a spokesperson for the coffee chain: “While we remain longstanding advocates of civil discourse, our focus is on fulfilling our promise to offer a bridge to a better future for all partners – through competitive pay, industry-leading benefits for part-time work, and our continued efforts to negotiate fair contracts for partners at stores that have chosen union representation.”
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student Haya Odeh puts about as much credence into that statement as you do. “We’re just not going to let Starbucks slide with the injustices they pass on to workers,” she’s quoted in The Guardian. “Their union busting is just the very tip of the iceberg. Their labor practices and how they treat their workers, we want to push the message that we’re not going to stand for this as students.”
Georgetown University’s paper TheHoya reported on a panel discussion held on February 22, sponsored by Georgetown Students Against Starbucks (GSAS). “Panelist Meghin Martin, a former partner at Starbucks and member of SWU, said Starbucks has refused to engage in good faith bargaining, a type of negotiation in which both parties must sincerely resolve to reach a collective bargaining agreement.
‘Their whole game plan is running the union dry, wait as long as they possibly can, and hope that we either just give up, we run out of money.’”
Speaking of money, Starbucks has quite a lot of it. Those protesting its labor practices have gumption, dedication to the cause of the worker, and the desire to end corporate exploitation.
Time will declare the victor. For the moment, a cup of coffee would be terrific. A nice, home-brewed cup in a porcelain mug that can be used time and again...
Better meat options exist.
Every year, humans eat 70 billion animals around the globe, and 9 billion of them are killed in the U.S.
According to a recent article in The Guardian, the most significant way to lower your impact on the environment is cut out meat and dairy from your diet: "The new analysis shows that while meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, it uses the vast majority – 83% – of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture's greenhouse gas emissions."
This presents environmentally-conscious animal eaters with a stark choice: Give up eating animals, or give up on your beliefs. But there is a middle ground, which involves choosing options that have, if not a zero-impact, perhaps a lower one. Here is a list of choices, going from best to worst.
For those who aren't ready to give up meat but want a more environmentally-friendly option, switching to chicken is one of the best choices. Slate explains that chickens produce a much lower amount of carbon dioxide than cows. Cows generate about four times more greenhouse gases than chickens. In addition, chickens only create two to four pounds of manure per pound of weight, which is less than the 35 to 65 pounds cows make per pound of beef, according to Slate. Experts recommend looking for free-range chickens raised without antibiotics.
Pork is a better environmental choice than beef because pigs produce about 50% less carbon dioxide than cows, according to the BBC. Pigs are also omnivores (they'll eat anything), and this is actually better for the environment than cows that require grass or grains. A hog can help reduce food waste by consuming vegetable scraps and other food that would have been discarded. Another positive is that pigs need less feed overall compared to cows.
Technically, mussels aren't meat because they're categorized as seafood. However, they're an option for people who don't want to go vegan and still want a good source of protein. The BBC explains that mussels actually capture carbon dioxide, so they're an environmentally-responsible alternative and a better choice than farm-raised fish. They don't need to eat other food sources to grow because they filter nutrients from the water, so their impact is lower. Moreover, they don't contribute to pollution.
Shoppers who are worried about the environmental impact of their meat purchases should consider the following tips. First, try to reduce the number of days per week that you eat meat. You can switch to meatless Mondays or make the weekends meat-free. Another option is to use meat alternatives like tofu more often when you cook. Look for free-range and organic meat products. Some other label names to watch for include cage-free or barn-roaming.
There are meat options that are more environmentally-friendly. Consider making chicken, pork, and mussels more frequently for dinner.
A U.N. panel recommends "rapid, far-reaching" overhauls to prevent global catastrophe by 2030.
When responding to a disaster, the last phase is containment. The latest report from the world's leading experts on global warming is urging world leaders and policy-makers that that time is now. In order to prevent the earth's temperature from rising any more than another .5 ˚Celsius over the next 12 years, "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society" are necessary.
The report is the latest from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which draws from thousands of publications and reviews of data on climate changes to assess and measure "increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level." In the past five reports, the IPCC has gone from investigating if and to what degree global warming was taking place to finding it "unequivocal" that global warming was an ongoing disaster with a 5% chance of being caused by natural climate change and a 90% probability that society's emissions of greenhouse gases were perpetuating the damage.
Environment and Human Being
Now, the IPCC is no longer concerned with spreading awareness or recommending practices to prevent damage from global warming, but to contain the coming destruction. The latest report cites that global temperatures are already 1 ˚C higher than in pre-industrial times; if temperatures rise more than 1.5 ˚C, environmental damages will put hundreds of millions of human lives at risk.
Furthermore, Earth's temperatures are expected to rise to the catastrophic 1.5 ˚C as early as 2030, unless "unprecedented changes" in transportation, agriculture, and energy are implemented. The IPCC's report verifies that carbon dioxide emissions have not been hampered by existing environmental policies, or lack thereof, recommending "rapid and far-reaching transitions" in society that leave some doubtful of its feasibility.
Skeptics include Glen Peters, research director of the Center for International Climate Research in Oslo, who stated, "Even if it is technically possible, without aligning the technical, political and social aspects of feasibility, it is not going to happen. To limit warming below 1.5 ˚C, or 2 ˚C for that matter, requires all countries and all sectors to act."
The rhetoric of environmentalism has been deemed alarmist and even fear-mongering in the past, but one reason skeptics remain unmoved could be due to a history of sanitized language. Phil Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center, doubts not only the IPCC's radical changes but their words: "If you're expecting IPCC to jump up and down and wave red flags, you're going to be disappointed. They're going to do what they always do, which is to release very cautious reports in extremely dispassionate language."
Scientists involved in the IPCC hope that the newest report will counteract that history of apathetic fatalism, urging that the present risk should merit the global, united response it will take to scale back potential disaster. "It's a line in the sand and what it says to our species is that this is the moment and we must act now," affirmed Dr. Debra Roberts, co-chair of the IPCC's working group on climate impacts. "This is the largest clarion bell from the science community and I hope it mobilizes people and dents the mood of complacency."
But plan to enact environmentally destructive policies anyway.
Amid the media frenzy surrounding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, you may have missed another recent development in the world of politics: the Trump administration's admission that climate change is real.
According to the Washington Post, "In public, President Trump and his deputies have downplayed or outright dismissed rising sea levels, more frequent droughts, and other effects of man-made global warming." Contrastingly, in a 500-page environmental impact statement released last week, the Trump administration projected that on its current course, the planet will warm seven degrees by 2100. According to scientists, that kind of increase in temperature would be disastrous; resulting in extreme heat waves, acidic oceans, and high sea levels.
But, shockingly, the report was not intended as evidence to support funding to combat climate change, but instead meant to defend President Trump's decision to freeze federal fuel efficiency standards for light trucks and cars built after 2020. The report asserts that though this policy would increase greenhouse gas emissions, the fate of the planet is already sealed and fuel efficiency standards make too small of an impact to be consequential.
Michael MacCracken, who was the senior scientist at the U.S. Global Change Research Program from 1993 to 2002, said, "The amazing thing they're saying is human activities are going to lead to this rise of carbon dioxide that is disastrous for the environment and society. And then they're saying they're not going to do anything about it."
The report states that the world would have to make massive cuts in carbon emissions to avoid this warming and that, "would require substantial increases in technology innovation and adoption compared to today's levels and would require the economy and the vehicle fleet to move away from the use of fossil fuels, which is not currently technologically feasible or economically feasible."
A rise of seven degrees Fahrenheit, or about four degrees Celsius, would exceed the goal set in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, from which Trump is withdrawing the United States. According to the Washington Post, "At those temperatures, scientists describe nothing short of catastrophe." The Guardian sums up the administration's argument well with, "You might as well argue that because you're going to die eventually, there's no reason not to smoke a carton of cigarettes a day."
Stay away from these lunch containers and packing items.
Once you've conquered the temptation of eating out for lunch every day, packing your own food seems like the perfect alternative. However, if you're packing certain items, then that brown bag lunch could be doing more harm than good. Before you start stuffing a lunchbox with cut vegetables and sandwiches, consider the following packing items you should avoid.
1. Plastic Containers for Microwaving
No one wants to eat cold soup or a frozen burrito for lunch, but microwaving food in plastic containers that you bring from home may expose you to chemicals such as bisphenol-A (BPA) or phthalates. Harvard Health recommends checking that the plastic containers have microwave-safe labels, which means they have been tested not to leak chemicals into your food. In addition, don't use old or scratched plastic containers because they may expose you to chemicals. Instead, consider switching to glass or ceramic items that are safe for microwaves.
Plastic water bottles
2. Plastic Water Bottles
You may think that BPA-free plastic water bottles are safe, but one study found that almost all plastic products release chemicals. Even the BPA-free items may be dangerous. When researchers took a variety of plastic products and put them through common-use stresses such as ultraviolet radiation from the sun or microwaving, they leaked chemicals. If you care about your health, switch to stainless steel, glass, or ceramic water bottles.
An alternative to plastic cling wrap made from beeswax
3. Plastic Cling Wrap
Whether you wrap a sandwich in it or use it to cover a bowl meant for the microwave, plastic cling wrap can seem like a convenient solution. However, you may be paying for it with your health. If the plastic cling wrap comes in contact with hot food while it's in the microwave, it can actually melt a little. This means you'll be eating some plastic along with the soup. Consider eliminating the plastic wrap completely. Some alternatives include paper towels, wax paper, beeswax wraps, and cotton bowl covers. If you must use a microwave, then choose silicone lids or white paper towels to cover the food.
4. Dangerous Lunchboxes
If you're worried about packing a healthy lunch, don't forget to check the lunchbox. One study tested 40 children's lunch boxes and found 35 percent of them contained lead. Many adults also use these boxes to pack their food for work, so it's crucial to check for recalls and verify that the lunchbox you're using is safe. Make sure it says lead-free on the labels. Also, consider using a stainless steel lunchbox since it won't leak chemicals.
5. Single-Use Food Items
From cups of applesauce to plastic packets of ketchup, single-use food items sometimes make their way into packed lunches. Not only are they creating unnecessary waste, they're usually made from plastic. Some ways to eliminate single-use food items from your lunch include buying larger items and only bringing a small amount with you in a container, or rethinking how you eat and pack food. For instance, consider layering a salad in a mason jar, so the sauce is on top, and you don't need to bring a single-use packet of ranch dressing.
The next time you're packing a healthy lunch, think about the entire lunchbox. Consider all the items you're using, such as the containers, so you can limit chemicals and plastic. It will be healthier for you and for the planet.
What are some easy ways to help the environment?
As scientists argue about the best ways to preserve the environment and politicians disagree on climate change, you can take control by changing small habits. You don't have to make drastic or expensive changes to have a big impact on the environment. Consider the following five small things you can do to help save the planet.
1. Skip the plastic straws
If you've been paying attention to the plastic straw debate, then you've probably seen that Starbucks is getting rid of them. It's switching to straw-less lids and paper straws, and other companies are either considering making the change or adopting the same policy. For instance: Alaska Airlines and Bon Appétit.
Several cities, states, and countries are also joining the trend. Vancouver is the first major city in Canada to ban plastic straws. In the U.S., Miami Beach and Fort Myers have followed suit. States like California, New York, and Hawaii are also considering the ban. Meanwhile, Taiwan has banned all plastic straws, bags, and other single-use items.
According to Plastic Pollution Coalition, people use 500,000,000 plastic straws in the United States every day. The single-use straws are wasteful and add to the landfill problem. So skip the plastic straw the next time you order coffee or a smoothie. You can also call your local representatives and ask them to support legislation to ban straws.
2. Switch to CFL light bulbs
Changing the light bulbs in your house can be a quick and easy way to help the environment. A compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) uses 70 percent less energy than an incandescent one. Not only can it help lower your utility bills, it also creates less heat. In addition, CFLs last longer than incandescents, so you'll be saving money as well.
3. Skip eating meat once a week
No one is forcing you to go completely vegan or vegetarian. Instead, you can still help the environment by not eating meat once a week. You'll help lower the greenhouse emissions, which currently make up 20 percent of all man-made emissions, created by the meat industry. In addition, you'll also decrease how much water this industry uses because one pound of meat requires 2,400 gallons of water to get to your table.
Consider taking the meatless Monday pledge. Once a week, make breakfast, lunch, and dinner without any meat. Try an egg omelet for breakfast, get a vegetarian burrito for lunch, and make tofu for dinner.
4. Get rid of bleached coffee filters
If you're already making coffee at home to help the environment, then you can take it another step by changing the type of filters you use. To make bleached coffee filters, manufacturers use chlorine and other chemicals such as dioxin. Not only are these chemicals bad for your health, they're also harmful to the environment. The next time you're shopping for coffee filters, reach for the unbleached ones. Bleached filters are white, while the unbleached versions tend to be brown.
Another option, is to get rid of single-use coffee filters completely. Check to see if your coffeemaker can work with a stainless steel coffee filter.
5. Unplug electronics when they're not being used
It may seem like a simple change, but unplugging all of your electronics when you're not using them can have a big impact. It's estimated that 5 to 10 percent of all energy usage in a typical household comes from electronics being in standby mode, which means they're plugged in but not used.
For instance, when your MacBook is turned off and charging, it draws 27 Watts of power. Even an HDTV that is off and simply plugged in can draw 1 Watt of power. Don't leave your chargers, computers, TVs, or other electronics plugged in.
You don't have to make enormous lifestyle changes to help the environment. Even small steps to lower your consumption and waste can help.
Scientists have accidentally boosted the enzyme that's breaking down ocean plastic—and that's a huge step.
In the Pacific Ocean, at least 79,000 metric tons of plastic waste are floating across an area exceeding 1.5 million square kilometers. The latest measurements of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch revealed that it's constantly growing and that its accumulation of plastic is accelerating. Also increasing is the world's plastic consumption. We use over 320 million metric tons annually, the majority of which ends up in our oceans. This decade saw more plastic produced than any other in history. Since 1992, China has been importing nearly half of the planet's plastic waste for recycling. But starting this year, the country is refusing all nonindustrial plastics and limiting imports of paper waste. Suddenly, this recyclable material is falling into landfills because recycling plants can't keep up.
Researchers estimate that after China's ban, 111 million metric tons of plastic waste will have to find room elsewhere. Too much of that plastic (as much as a third) will likely end up in our oceans.
Good news came in February, when Japanese scientists announced that they had discovered the first species of bacteria that break down polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Commonly called polyester, PET is one of the most commonly used plastics and makes up a significant amount of the pollution in rivers, lakes and oceans. The bacteria, called Ideonella Sakaiensis 201-F6, contains enzymes that can break down the molecular bonds of PET in under six weeks.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
It appears that the bacteria evolved their "appetite" for PET as global pollution increased over the past century. But, as the scientists investigated the bacteria's biological processes, a lucky accident unveiled the organisms' greater potential.
They had experimented on the plastic-eating enzyme to study its evolution. Subsequent testing showed the surprising result of their adjustments: they had made the enzyme even better at breaking PET's molecular bonds.
This astonishing discovery points directly to large-scale uses of this enzyme in reducing plastic pollution around the world. When the modified enzyme breaks down the PET, it reverts the plastic to its base components. Unlike standard recycling, which can only reuse the plastic in limited ways, such as clothing or bags, the enzyme's process could allow broken down PET to become new PET, turning plastic waste back into new plastic.
Plastics are made from feedstocks derived from natural gas processing and crude oil refining. If the enzyme can successfully break down plastic into its original parts on a large scale, it will simultaneously reduce the amount of plastic polluting the oceans and reduce the amount of fossil fuels used to produce new plastic. It would be a step toward true recycling, where the recycled material contributes no waste to landfills.
The researchers only made a 20% improvement to the efficiency of the enzyme but the "only," in this measurement, is optimistic. Their goal is to optimize its performance even further, until its widespread use is practical and effective. They have even considered inserting this enzyme into other super-resilient bacteria that can survive in extremely harsh conditions.
Scientists continue to search for other strains of bacteria and fungi that have evolved similar skills. Enzymes are an ideal agent for plastic breakdown because they have no environmental side effects. This discovery opens another source of hope to a world facing increasingly dire warnings and little help from its governments. Perhaps nature has, once again, found its own solution in the absence of human innovation. And, perhaps, this bacteria offers exactly the creative spark that human scientists need to design their own long-term solutions.
Farmers and scientists want to use the dirt beneath our feet to save the air above our heads
The headlining culprit in climate change warnings is the collection of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere that come burning fossil fuels. You might be surprised, then, to learn that agriculture's effect on the health of the Earth's safety blanket is nearly as large as that of greenhouse gases. Clearing forests for farmland, tilling fields, raising livestock and spraying herbicides and pesticides—all of these practices contribute to the rising CO2 levels in the air. Now, new studies have started to point to compost as a tool for improving farming practices and reducing agriculture's effects on the environment.
Photosynthesis is the basis of agriculture and all of the plant life on Earth. Through this process, plants pull carbon from the atmosphere, combine it with hydrogen atoms from water and create energy, releasing oxygen as a byproduct. This elementary-school concept—plants subtract carbon from the air and add oxygen—created the human-friendly atmosphere that we breathe and grows the food supply for every herbivore and omnivore on the planet. But the focus of some scientists is shifting from the way plants remove carbon from the air to how they store it.
While governments around the world struggle to regulate the creation of new greenhouse gases, researchers and farmers hope to bury the carbon that already exists deep in the ground. The pedosphere is the layer of soil on top of the Earth's crust. Soil naturally absorbs carbon through the roots of plants but popular farming practices reduce its ability to do this by removing naturally occurring species of grasses and altering the state of the soil. The question arising is: can a change in farming techniques to focus on soil health help soil store more carbon and store it longer?
The destruction of forests and wetlands (for farmland and livestock) and the careless use of soil has released 135 billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial revolution. The future extraction of carbon from the atmosphere will be expensive and difficult. Keeping carbon in the soil instead of letting it escape into the air is an immediate solution to the greenhouse problem.
Compost might be the key to doing this.
The New York Times Magazine recently profiled two farmers who are helping to spearhead the practice and offer their ranch to researchers. Peggy Rathmann and John Wick grow 2,000+ acres of crops on their ranch in Marin County, California. Originally, Wick worked to keep out the neighbor's cows who had been eating his grass. But soon, the land and plant life where they'd formerly grazed suffered and smothered itself. He brought back cows—but this time with supplies to keep them on his land—and, by the end of their spring and summer on the ranch, the cows weighed, collectively, 50,000 pounds more than when they'd come. The symbiotic relationship between the cows and grass renewed, the plant life rebounded and the cows became healthier. This extremely positive result cannot be assumed to be typical at this early stage in the research but it is a telling example of the power of soil in agriculture and climate science.
Scientists, encouraged by this result, tested the carbon content of soil from a variety of places and uses. They found that the soil that best stored carbon was beneath dairy farms—even former ones—where the farmers sprayed manure onto the fields. Manure, however, releases gases such as methane and nitrous oxide, which are more powerful greenhouse gases than CO2. So the positive effects on the soil would be canceled out by the gases coming from the manure. The solution is compost.
Compost—which is, mostly, decayed organic matter—absorbs the nitrogen atoms into complex molecules, preventing them from escaping in gases. It turns out, treating soil with compost has benefits directly resulting from the added carbon.
Carbon farming is the term used to describe scientists' efforts to better store carbon in the soil. Carbon farming could improve fertility, increase the soil's water retention and make crops more resilient. There are financial benefits, too: by moving the focus away from herbicides, tilling and expensive, fortified seeds and toward the health of the soil, farmers can lower their costs of operation and increase profit on the same quantity of produce.
This monetary incentive is exactly what is necessary to incite real action on climate change. The world needs to place a price on the future damage of climate change and clearly lay out the savings that are possible by changing to greener habits to spur people to act. A report in Nature estimates the global cost to be $60 trillion. A solution that can help reduce that cost while increasing immediate profits for those involved (the farmers) seems like the perfect start.
It is still too early to know or predict the effectiveness of compost treatments on places outside of California. And the cows that are part of Wick's and other farmers' healthy-soil systems produce methane, a gas better kept out of the atmosphere. Nevertheless, this new focus on the power of photosynthesis to heal the atmosphere it created offers hope to a warming world.
Is there truth behind going green and can it really help save the planet?
So many campaigns want you to recycle, avoid creating trash and reduce your carbon footprint. There are many, many tips online to living a green lifestyle. And many people are attempting to reduce waste and conserve energy — but is this enough to really make an impact?
Sure, if every single person (or at least most people) in developed societies lived an eco-friendly lifestyle, there would be a significant impact on the environment. But right now, about 75 percent of Americans don't do more than turn off the lights and recycle even though about 79% consider themselves environmentally conscious.
...fossil fuels are intertwined with pretty much everything we do.
If you live in an urban area, it might be a little easier to make more green lifestyle choices. Your city probably has the ability to recycle more than in other areas. You have access to public transportation and many more options when it comes time to shop or get groceries. These options just aren't as widely available in suburban and rural areas. Some municipalities don't even have any kind of recycling plant. Everything (including plastic, paper, bottles and cans) goes to the dump. Beside the fact that going through the effort to change your lifestyle to become more green takes time and money that some just can't spare.
But let's take a step back. Even if a lot of people do everything right and live an incredibly environmentally conscious lifestyle, nothing will really change. Why? Because fossil fuels are intertwined with pretty much everything we do. The solution to global warming isn't rooted in going paperless (using paper is more eco-friendly than smartphones anyway). The solution is in fundamentally changing the very fabric of our economy. That's not something individuals can do on their own.
Almost everything you buy and consume has to be transported to the store (for you to purchase. Within the country, this is done with trucks. Overseas, it's usually done with ships or planes. Every single one of those vehicles burns some type of fossil fuels to get going. You probably burn them when you're going to the store too. (You can't really get around this by ordering online either.)
In the end, using an electric car can actually put more carbon in the atmosphere than your average gas-powered car.
Electric cars are often seen as a solution for this. It's better to use electricity than gas, right? Definitely — if most of the power didn't come from burning fossil fuels. America's power grid is powered by about 40 percent coal, 25 percent natural gas, 20 percent nuclear power and about 10 percent renewable sources (mostly hydroelectricity). If you own or are considering an electric car, you would most likely still be burning fossil fuels. And that's not even taking into account everything that goes into making a new car. Just like a regular car electric vehicles require precious metals and minerals to be manufactured. What's more is all of the materials and parts are transported using fossil fuels as well as the final product itself. In the end, using an electric car can actually put more carbon in the atmosphere than your average gas-powered car.
Just about every facet of our modern economy depends on burning fossil fuels. That isn't something one person can change. To really live a sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle, we need to change everything about how we live. That just isn't an easy process.
Of course, it still helps to reduce, reuse and recycle — but that only makes a relatively small impact compared to the overall economy. But it isn't all doom and gloom. The Paris Agreement was an encouraging step toward reducing carbon emissions around the world. If you really care about reducing your carbon footprint, the best solution is to organize and lobby companies and the government to change procedures and regulations. Ultimately, individuals independently choosing to live a greener lifestyle only makes a small impact in reducing our global carbon footprint.
We may forget that water is not an infinite source on the planet so what happens when we run out?
While seventy percent of the Earth is covered in water, only about two percent of it is drinkable. On top of this, most freshwater is inaccessible, either frozen in glacial ice or buried deep beneath the Earth's surface. According to several sources, there are currently one billion people in developing nations who lack access to clean drinking water and by 2025, up to two thirds of the world's population could living under water stressed conditions. When looking at the increasing scarcity of usable water, rising populations, and today's volatile political climate,many experts have come to the conclusion that we are on the verge of widespread conflict and many are saying that the next major war will be fought over water.
The preliminary effects of the coming crisis are already being felt all over the world. Economic powerhouses like China are suffering from pollution in their rivers and as evidenced by the Flint water crisis, even the US isn't completely immune to clean water shortages. In the US, most of our problems are due to outdated and slowly crumbling infrastructure and while this is nothing to sneeze at, access to water in the US can be fixed by replacing old pipes for the time being. Whether this is done through public works or private investment is political semantics. Right now, Third World countries are the ones who truly suffer. About 2,300 people die per day from diseases contracted through unclean water and with very little support, these countries don't have the tools necessary to mitigate the effects of prolonged drought. Desertification and global warming are also contributing to water scarcity in a big way, the latter causing about 20% of our water scarcity issues today.
While the situation is dire, we aren't doomed yet and there are several conservation measures being kicked around by the world's top environmental scientists. One solution that has been gaining popularity in recent years is desalination. Israel has successfully used desalination to supply its population with fresh water with 55% of its water coming from the ocean. In the US and many countries in Europe, large scale desalination projects are being funded for a vast array of what-if scenarios.
The problem is, desalination isn't very energy efficient. Desalination requires an enormous amount of energy and although the technology is improving, desalination plants have the potential to become major contributors to global warming in the coming years. On top of this, there are unforeseeable effects on sea life and desalination has the potential to disrupt the fragile balance of the ocean's ecosystem. Significant changes in the ocean's ecosystem means significant changes to the way we fish and subsequently, the way we eat. Since there haven't been many studies on the long-term effects of desalination, it's difficult to say how damaging it is but there does seem to be some cause for alarm with regard to its immediate effect on sea life. Fish, plankton and other organisms are often killed during water intake and processing and at the moment, it's probably safer to look for other methods to fix the world's water issues.
When the well is running dry, it's sometimes better to examine its structural integrity before digging a brand new one. Agriculture accounts for 80% of America's water use. Rather than focusing on desalination, many water activists are looking to fix inefficiencies in the way we farm food. Leaking irrigation systems and the cultivation of non-local crops are wasteful practices that are squandering huge amounts of water. How much? Up to 60% of water used in farming is wasted because of irrigation issues alone. Rather than rushing to invest all of our time and resources into desalination, it might be time that we reexamine the way in which we grow food. In Volgograd, farmers have been using experimental drip irrigation with extremely effective results both in regard to maintaining healthy soil and proper water utilization. The water scarcity issue may have to get a whole lot worse before people start paying attention to it but it's important to recognize the farmers and scientists who are currently making a contribution. The Water Project and other charitable organizations are also doing their part for water conservation.
If the future looks tumultuous, it's because it is, but with the implementation of more eco-friendly farming methods and the use of desalination as a last resort, there is less of a reason to panic than one might think.